How To Use Your Camera’s Aperture Setting and Why

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Posted: 7 August 2017

I’m on one of my photo escapades…sometimes you just have to grab your camera and go. I start out snapping this and that. After all, I’m not really certain what I am looking for. I turn the corner and something catches my eye. I wish I could just make everything else around it fade into the background. That’s when I turn to aperture.

What the heck is aperture, you ask? The simplest explanation is that it’s the size of the opening in the lens when a picture is taken. Aperture is a lot like the pupil of an eye. It opens wider as light decreases to let in more available light. It gets smaller when light increases to reduce the amount of light entering the eye.

example

Aperture is measured in ‘f-stops’. Moving from one f-stop to the next doubles or halves the size of the amount of opening in your lens (the amount of light getting through). One thing that can cause a lot of new photographers’ confusion is that large apertures, where lots of light gets through, are given smaller f-stop numbers. Smaller apertures, where less light gets through, have larger f-stop numbers. Seems a little backward, but it will click eventually.

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Another dimension of mastering aperture is to understand Depth of Field. I’ve always wanted a chance to shoot photos in a professional photography studio to test this (outside of nature), just to see. The depth of Field (DOF) is that amount of your shot that will be in focus. Large DOF means that most of your image will be in focus. Small DOF means that only part of the image will be in focus and the rest will be fuzzy. Aperture has a big impact upon DOF. Large aperture (a smaller number) will decrease DOF while small aperture (a larger number) will give you larger DOF. Again, I know this can be rather confusing. Another way to remember it is that small numbers mean small DOF and large numbers mean large DOF. Are you confused yet? I will give you the same advice every time….do not be intimidated! Grab your camera, and ……GO!

How to Use Your Camera's Aperture Setting

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